Biomedicine in museums

Philosophy of history vs. museum tangibles and specifics

By October 22, 2008 No Comments

In her short obituary of George E. Palade — who was the first to identify what was later called ribosomes (thus a shared Nobel prize in 1974) — Andrea Gawrylewski, staff writer at The Scientist, refers in passing to something that Palade wrote in his autobiographical essay:

My father had hoped I was going to study philosophy at the University, like himself, but I preferred to deal with tangibles and specifics, and – influenced by relatives much closer to my age than he was – I entered the School of Medicine of the University of Bucharest (Romania) in 1930.

Interesting opposition between philosophy and medical science as dealing with ‘tangibles’ and ‘specifics’. Wonder if this is valid for historians too? Is there an opposition between being interested in the philosophy of history and preferring to work with historical tangibles and specifics, as we do in museums?

I for my part believe it is possible to embrace both (but maybe I’m just naïve). In fact, most people I know are either philosophically minded or tangible-oriented. Does this have anything to do with personality structure? Or is it an institutional thing?

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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